Having emerged victorious but financially bruised, Cheek seeks more than $100,000 in legal fees from her tormentor, who first sued her in 2017 and again last year after the initial case was dismissed. Getting Pirri to pay could be difficult, considering the Long Island resident filed for personal bankruptcy at least four times between 2007 and 2014.
“For two and a half years this been a huge burden,” Cheek said. “I feel like there was a terrorist attack on my business. I’m going to try rebuild it now.”
Her ordeal isn’t quite over, however. In the fall Pirri filed a defamation suit in a New York state court against Cheek. She says she hasn’t been served.
The dating service at the heart of this matter is called Cheekd. As originally conceived, customers would hand a person they’re attracted to a card with a code that revealed some personal information when typed in. It was unlike dating websites where people offer personal information before meeting and Cheekd’s slogan was “Online dating in reverse.” Between the bewildering lawsuits and the rise of Tinder Cheek hasn’t been able to generate revenue for Cheekd, which is now an app. She also developed a business-networking service called Networkd.
At a hearing last month, Judge Engelmayer made clear he had no patience for Pirri’s theories about how Cheek invented her dating service, which she patented in 2013.
“Is there some evidence that was adduced in discovery, meaning documents or testimony, that you have not referenced in your letter that would support your client’s claim of coinventorship on this patent?” the judge asked Pirri’s lawyer, Steven Fairchild.
“As I mentioned in my letter, discovery was cut short,” Fairchild replied, meaning he hadn’t been given enough time to gather evidence.
“No,” the judge replied. “Discovery was not cut short. Irrelevant discovery was precluded. You had all the time you needed.”
As Cheek watched the judge dismantle her tormentor’s case, she couldn’t help but wonder: Why was Pirri so interested in her small business? Why did he demand so much from someone he’d never met? What kind of person does this sort of thing?
I asked Fairchild if Cheek would be served with the defamation suit. “We’re working on that,” he said, describing the situation as “hot and heavy.”
Cheek is left baffled trying to figure why a total stranger has it out for her.
“I still don’t know what he looks like,” she said.